It’s a small world, after all: Facebook finds people are now separated only by 4.74 degrees

The world has become immensely smaller than what you have thought.

people connection

Photo: Nylanetwork.

Adding a new chapter to the research that contributed the theory “six degrees of separation”, researchers from the University of Milan and social networking site Facebook have recently uncovered that people are getting closer nowadays, thanks to the arrival of social media.

The original “six degrees of separation” theory was published in 1967, following a worldwide experiment involving 296 volunteers from all walks of life. Researchers asked the volunteers to deliver postcards to a stranger in the Boston suburb. The postcards would then be passed to their friends, and subsequently friends of friends before they reach the destination. The result revealed that most of the postcards had to be passed six times before they reached the target, and thus the average number of acquaintances separating any two persons in the world is six.

However, the situation have changed drastically nowadays. With the arrival of social media, people are now getting closer to one another as never before. The new research conducted recently – which used an even larger cohort of more than 700 million Facebook users – discovered that the average links between any two randomly-selected persons were just as little as 4.74.

Even though some were astonished by the new study, others questioned the reliability of the research because the term “friends” in Facebook does not necessarily imply that both users know each other in real life.

A Microsoft researcher told the New York Times that this study only focused on the number of virtual “friends” people have online. He said that network was based on people who exchanged ideas, rather than those who identified their relations as “buddies”.

Even so, with the proliferation of Internet users, people have now become increasingly connected. Maybe the Disney classical theme song is right – it is a small world, after all.


Copyright © 2015 Eric Cheung. All rights reserved.

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